Why does a hamster eat its own feces?
Have you ever noticed your hamster eating its own feces?
This behavior is by no means unusual, but you should definitely take action, because your animal is signaling something to you.
What exactly, you will learn now!
Why do hamsters eat their own droppings?
When hamsters eat their own feces, it is strange or perhaps even frightening for people. It is often assumed that the animal is missing something and urgently needs a change in diet.
However, this is a misconception.
Because the digestion of hamsters has some peculiarities: The food is crushed by the teeth and enters the stomach. Here, the components of the food are turned into a thin food pulp.
This is then transported to the intestine.
Enzymes and bacteria release the nutrients present. These are absorbed through the intestinal walls and passed into the bloodstream. At the end of the intestine, water is also removed from the feces.
However, the absorption of nutrients does not work throughout the intestine. Although the nutrients are prepared by the intestinal flora, they can no longer pass into the bloodstream.
This means that hamster feces still contain large amounts of vitamins and minerals. So in order to be able to absorb the valuable and partly vital nutrients nevertheless, the excrement is eaten repeatedly. This starts digestion all over again and the remaining nutrients are utilized.
This applies above all to the night feces, which are relatively soft and moist.
However, hamsters may also ingest the dry rectal feces and store them in their cheek pouches or eat them directly. In addition to micronutrients, such as the vital vitamin B12, the feces also contain bacteria from the intestinal flora. These are essential for digestion and the immune system.
For this reason, primarily very young hamsters eat feces. In this case, however, the feces of their mother. In this way they build up their own intestinal flora with the necessary bacteria and lay the foundation for their intestinal health.
As repulsive or even off-putting as eating feces may seem, it has compelling benefits for the animals.
Is hamster droppings dangerous for the rodents?
No, the excrement is not a danger for the hamsters. On the contrary, because it is an important factor in the supply of essential nutrients.
You also can’t compensate with a change in diet.
Even by feeding food very rich in vitamins and minerals, your pet will not be able to absorb sufficient amounts during the first digestion. Vitamin B12 is an additional special case.
This micronutrient comes primarily from animal sources. Hamsters do ingest animal foods, such as mealworms, but are not adequately supplied by them. However, their own intestines, or more precisely the bacteria in them, can produce appropriate amounts.
However, in order for these to be absorbed into the body in the digestive tract, they must eat the feces.
However, there are cases in which feces eating – scientifically also called coprophagy – should be prevented.
This is always the case when:
your hamster is sick
medication is administered
there is an infestation of parasites, such as worms.
Consult your veterinarian to determine if the residue in the feces is a threat to your hamster’s health.
However, it is usually not possible to completely prevent fecal ingestion, as animals eat many small meals and therefore defecate frequently.
As you know from cleaning the cage, they do their business everywhere. Whether nest, sleeping house or directly in the food – the crumbs are found in almost every place.
In some cases, it is also picked up directly during heeling and while cleaning the anal area.
Nevertheless, keeping them temporarily in a quarantine cage with very little bedding and cleaning them several times a day can at least reduce the ingested amount considerably.
To do this, it is important to be quick, especially during your hamster’s active periods. This can mean sleepless nights and causes stress to your pet. Therefore, it is better to choose the right medication and thus do without this measure.
Nutritional value of hamster feces
Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the nutritional values of hamster feces, as there is for food.
Instead, various factors determine the content of nutrients:
Composition of the food
Structure of the intestinal flora
Pre-fermentation in intestine and appendix
For example, a stressed hamster is more prone to diarrhea. The food is then far from being digested in such a way that it has been deprived of sufficient nutrients. So despite having enough food available, your hamster is not getting proper nutrition. Treating diarrhea quickly is therefore crucial.
Similarly, if your hamster is given an antibiotic. This is because the drug does not differentiate between the “bad”, disease-causing bacteria and the “good” intestinal flora that is essential for digestion. After administration, the colonization of bacteria must therefore first be allowed to recover and rebuild.
To favor this process, home remedies and supplementary feeds can be found.
Especially after a long therapy with antibiotics, the use of these remedies is recommended. Because otherwise further problems can occur as a result of the disease and treatment. Among them, first and foremost, digestion and absorption of nutrients.
Diarrhea or very mushy feces are therefore not uncommon. It is best to start the therapy with a gentle diet and restorative remedies at the beginning.
Home remedies include
very finely grated apple
baby porridge made from apple
Moro carrot soup (well boiled down)
Baby porridge made from carrots
These are easy to digest and provide a good food base for the bacteria still present in the intestinal flora. When using supplements, you should again consult the veterinarian as to what can be administered.
This way, therapy is not compromised, but the intestines are protected and strengthened.
Preventing and stopping feces eating
Now that you know about the purpose of feces eating, you probably won’t want to stop your hamster from doing it.
Even if you try it long term, you won’t get positive results with it.
Animals prevented from eating feces may even die because they lack the proper supply. That’s because 80 to 100 percent of food passes through the digestive tract twice, and for good reason.
Just like cattle chewing the cud, hamsters simply eat feces and it is neither a quirk nor a cause for concern.
My name is Mark and the senior editor
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